Eoin Liston: GAA have given Red Hand a reason to feel aggrieved over McCann ban
Published 13/08/2015 | 02:30
I can totally understand why the GAA have come out strongly and have proposed an eight-week ban on Tyrone's Tiernan McCann.
He dived and got a Monaghan player sent off in an All-Ireland quarter-final, an incident that left a knot in the stomach of me and, I'd say, most GAA people watching.
But Tyrone have every right to feel aggrieved. Aidan O'Mahony took a dive when he was tapped in the face by Cork's Donncha O'Connor in an All-Ireland semi-final seven years ago.
Cork's Michael Shields did something similar in this season's drawn Munster final and nothing happened to either of them, save for the embarrassment of knowing that they did something mortifying.
What McCann did wasn't acceptable, but to my mind it wasn't premeditated either. I don't for one second believe he said to himself as Darren Hughes patted him on the head, 'I'm going to go down now and get this fella sent off'.
It was a reflex reaction, he's a young man and, to be honest, I feel a bit sorry for him because he'll know he shouldn't have done it and he'll be so embarrassed now by all of the attention that incident has generated.
What I would like to have seen the GAA do is come out and make a strong statement, saying that they acknowledge that diving is becoming a problem in Gaelic football and that something is going to be done in future.
They could have said that from now on all dives such as the one we saw last Saturday were going to be given a four-week ban, which I feel is appropriate, and I can guarantee we'd see a lot less of it every weekend.
Now, what they have done is given Tyrone a cause because they feel that one of their own has been unjustly punished. And it's hard not to have sympathy for them - if they were to beat Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final later this month McCann would also miss the All-Ireland final, and that is a very heavy price to have to pay.
Tyrone will be aggrieved because the GAA have set precedent with similar cases - O'Mahony's and Shields' - when players haven't been punished for clear dives. And that's a legitimate argument.
I think what's happened here is there was an accumulation of incidents towards the end of the Tyrone-Monaghan game that left people cold and Croke Park with a feeling that they had no alternative but to act.
It was a horrible end to he game; people put one incident after another together and felt that action had to be taken. In every game there are incidents that are regrettable, but on this occasion they were nearly non-stop in the final quarter.
There was a total lack of sportsmanship and respect for the game and for opponents, and I would say that people from both counties are embarrassed looking back on it now. I know I was cringing watching it because I know this isn't what people go to watch football matches for.
And I would hate to think that anyone would read this article and come away with the impression that I'm just saying 'typical Tyrone' here, because I'm not.
There has been incidents over the past 40 years involving Kerry that have been regrettable and I doubt there's a single county that can put up the defence that 'our county's record is impeccable'. Everyone should examine their own conscience first before they hammer McCann or Tyrone.
However, if there was a measure for teams on their sportsmanship and their respect of fellow players there is a perception that Tyrone would score pretty poorly on it. That's something that they have to address themselves.
Mickey Harte said in his book that his brother played with a fantastic level of aggression. Aggression was certainly never a quality that people in Kerry went home excited talking about. Football is all about controlled aggression and that's something I always tried to instil in any team I coached or managed.
I played Tyrone plenty of times when I was wearing the Kingdom jersey and there was always great respect going both ways between the counties. I met them for a drink after matches and got to know some of their players during tours away.
In 1981 we travelled north to play three challenge games one weekend and we played and stayed overnight in Carrickmore. The fun we had and hospitality shown to us means I still look back on that as one of my happiest memories in football
If I was playing now though, if things like sledging and diving were happening around me, I know I'd find it harder to have a pint with them.
Kerry are next up in an All-Ireland semi-final and the Kingdom will have to be worried. Tyrone are a wounded animal and they have a cause to fight for.